Softball’s Season Concludes in NCAA Tournament Thriller
Senior Rachel Riley works six scoreless innings in relief; Joiner hits two-run homer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – After yet another historic season in Kentucky softball history under the guidance of fifth-year head coach Rachel Lawson in which UK qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the fourth-consecutive season, the 2012 season came to a close Saturday night with Kentucky falling 3-2 to No. 15 Louisville in an elimination game in front of a stadium-record crowd of 3,124 people at Ulmer Stadium.
Kentucky finishes the season with a 30-30 record on the 2012 campaign including another year with an above .500 mark in the Southeastern Conference going 15-13 in the conference. With the win, Louisville improves to 55-4 on the season and moves on to the regional final Sunday afternoon against Michigan.
The loss concludes the careers for the 2012 senior class who simply changed the Kentucky softball program forever. UK’s six-member class is the all-time winningest in school history with 136 career wins. It is the only class to appear in postseason play in every season of its career. Brittany Cervantes finishes as UK’s all-time leader in home runs and RBI. Riley and Chanda Bell formed the winningest pitching tandem in school allure and the duo ranks among the top-five in every pitching category in the history of the program. Macy Allen, Ashleigh Gustafson and Erika Silence each contributed to monumental Wildcat victories along the way as well.
Riley retired 13 Louisville batters in a row in a stretch spanning from the closing two outs of the second inning to the third batter of the sixth inning. In that capsule of the game, Riley struck out three in six-innings of flawless relief.
Freshman Griffin Joiner led the bats with a two-run homer in the fifth frame for UK’s lone tallies of the game.
The Cards plated all three of its runs in the top of the first frame. Alicja Wolny connected for a two-run homer after the visitors earned a leadoff slap-single to begin the game. After a pair of walks bookending a single to load the bases, a wild pitch allowed Taner Fowler to score from third to up the UL lead to 3-0. The run would eventually become the difference in the contest.
Kentucky’s defensive prowess kept the Wildcats in the hunt, including freshman Kara Howard making an over-the-shoulder catch on a ball hit to the ball in deep center in the opening inning. Sophomore Ginny Carroll also got in on the act, corralling an excellent catch jockeying with the left field fence and made the catch in foul ground up against the wall. Cervantes and junior Kara Dill made several plays fielding choppers through the left side of the infield, and sophomore Lauren Cumbess snatched two crucial foul balls for outs.
Louisville starter Tori Collins carried Kentucky hitless into the bottom of the fifth when Cervantes broke-up the no-hit bid when she blooped a single over the head of UL’s Wolny for the Cats first hit of the game. Cervantes then advanced to second on a wild pitch with one out. On a 3-1 pitch, Joiner launched a pitch to deep center field over the wall for a two-rum bomb. The homer was the fourth of the season for the Hopkinsville, Ky., native and cut the Louisville lead to 3-2 through five innings.
Riley led off the bottom of the sixth by reaching on a Louisville error. Pinch runner Sarah Frazer then swiped second on her first stolen base of her career. Louisville would then turn to a new pitcher in sophomore Chelsea Leonard. Leonard would face Cumbess as her first batter who singled into center to put the runners on the corners. Kentucky would leave the runners stranded to close the sixth in its best chance to knot the score.